Teachers use IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to prove how important student physical and emotional health is as schools adopt a “whole student” philosophy.

The IHT ZONE monitors help students manage both their physical and emotional health throughout the school day. In physical education settings, the heart rate monitor shows students when they are exercising at an elevated heart rate – the Centers For Disease Control recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. In classroom settings, the monitor can show students when their heart rate becomes elevated because of emotions such as stress, anxiety or excitement.

Improving – and Re-Inventing – Physical Education with Technology

PE Class

Students join their parents for a warm-up as part of the Pleasant Valley Junior High School Parent PE Night.

“One of the big issues is that there is a stereotypical view of physical education,” Matthew Bassett, a 2018 SHAPE America National Elementary PE Teacher of the Year, said. “The parents that I have, a lot of them grew up in a bad program. (Teachers) rolled out the ball. Students were graded on how fast they ran the mile. They got participation points before it became a behavior thing.”

That viewpoint, Bassett said, makes it difficult for parents -- and even school officials – to see the full value of physical education for students. Despite numerous published studies and articles that detail the relationship between physical activity and mental health and physical activity and academic development, PE teachers and administrators continue to battle for their place in the school day.

“It takes a lot of time, a lot of work and a lot of patience. In my 21 years, to be honest, I wish I was a little farther along with that process with my community.”

The IHT ZONE heart rate monitors that they wear help Bassett’s students get the type of moderate to vigorous activity that the CDC recommend. They also give him data to show administrators the value of his program.

“IHT gives us a really cool program where, instead of using participation points, we can show exactly what students did and how hard they are working,” he said. “We’ll be able to show assessments to parents to show that we are hitting those national standards. It will be fun to say – and show – that we do learn things in PE.”

Creating Advocates for PE Programs and Heart Rate Technology

Sometimes, though, it’s not enough to show administrators the data that proves their program’s worth. At Pleasant Valley Junior High School in Iowa, teachers Caitlin Schoville, Sophie Haarhues and Maddie Reynolds show parents exactly what students do in class and why their class is essential to their overall health and academic progress.

“The big thing for is us being able to share our ‘why’ with our parents,” Haarhues said. “Our kids’ parents PE class wasn’t anything like how we structure ours. There is still this old reputation and stereotype about PE that is negative. We want to show parents what is our purpose. We want kids to be healthy. How do we get kids’ heart rate up? We show that everyone is working.”

For their parent’s night program, the parents wear the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors and go through some of the same activities students do during their PE classes. That accomplishes several goals for the teachers.

First, parents see how much PE has changed since they were students.

“This isn’t anything like what PE was for them,” Reynolds said. “We don’t offer the traditional sports and games.”

Second, participating parents see the same feedback on their heart rate monitors that students see. The IHT ZONE monitors display both actual heart rate and a color indicating the level of activity – heart rate zone – that parents are exercising in:

  • Blue indicates low level activity or normal resting heart rate
  • Yellow indicates moderate levels of activity or elevated heart rate
  • Red indicates vigorous levels of activity or maximum heart rate

Utilizing Technology to Support Social-Emotional Learning

The colors shown on the IHT ZONE also work in SEL settings. Students wear the IHT ZONES throughout the day. When their heart rate zone, as indicated by color, doesn’t match their activity level, they know their emotions may be heightened.

“We talk about how our body feels,” Braham Area Schools (Minn.) counselor Jonelle Klemz said. “The third graders don’t always know if they are hyper because they’re excited or because they are anxious. I think all kids need this information.”

Klemz teaches students breathing strategies to employ when they notice their heart rate doesn’t match their activity level. The strategies work whether students are excited about something – recess or a fun game in a class setting – or anxious – nervous about a test in a difficult subject. Reviewing the heart rate reports with students further helps them understand what’s going on when they see their heart rate elevate.

The counselor recalls sitting with a student to review the heart rate report when she noticed a spike from blue into the high yellow and low red zones when the student wasn’t in PE class or at recess. The student thought about what happened at that time and then recalled why her heart rate spiked.

“And she says, ‘oh, I know, that was a hard test and I wanted to do well,’” Klemz said. “Then she turns to me and asks, ‘so, is that what stress looks like?’”

With student stress levels higher than ever, Klemz is grateful that she – and her students – have had the heart rate monitors to learn how to manage the stresses that come along with a school day. Knowing when to step back and practice relaxation tactics such as Navy Seals Box Breathing has helped students take control of their emotional health.

“We do hard work during the day,” Klemz said. “We have hard things going on in our lives and school. We just need some quiet time to be able to handle our feelings and manage our day.”

Parents are thankful for the information as well.

“When I talk to our parents, they get pretty excited about what we are doing,” Klemz said.

Teachers understand that by showing parents exactly what students do during the day and how the, they can create advocates for their program.

“Anytime you can show a glimpse into your classroom with your parents, it will make a big different in what you’re trying to do,” Bassett said.

That will help them continue the mission of finding more time to work with students on their physical and emotional health.

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